I'm working on this English homework where I have to translate a text from my native language into English. There's one word that means "something that requires numerous attempts" or "something that requires retrying." I cannot say "trial and error" because the original text didn't really mention anything about errors. It is basically a sentence literally translated into something like " X requires retrying.". So my question is, is there a word to describe that? For example,

X is ___.


X requires ___ [something better than retrying].

  • 4
    Perhaps X requires iteration. It would be helpful if you could provide more context, for example, what the specific task is.
    – DyingIsFun
    Oct 5, 2016 at 16:28
  • 2
    X is a work in progress. might be what you want, but it depends on what you mean. Perhaps X requires iterative refinement.
    – jxh
    Oct 5, 2016 at 16:46
  • 1
    trial and error fits here. Yet, I'm confused by "I cannot say "trial and error" because the original text didn't really mention anything about errors.". Why would you need to retry something if its not necessary? That is, an error was not encountered? Sure, no explicit mention of "errors" were made, but those were implied considering you are retrying something that failed.
    – lux
    Oct 5, 2016 at 18:02
  • 2
    X requires persistence.
    – MetaEd
    Oct 5, 2016 at 18:23
  • 1
    Also sounds like experimentation.
    – bib
    Oct 5, 2016 at 21:10

7 Answers 7


X requires persistence

persistence noun.
1. the quality of persisting; tenacity.
2. the act of persisting; continued effort or existence.


Seems like you need perseverance.

[MASS NOUN] Persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.
‘medicine is a field which requires dedication and perseverance’




The repetition of a process or utterance.

Iterations implies one builds on the next. Not sure if that is the case here or not.


What about "X requires many attempts"? Alternately, you could phrase the issue in terms of success being a low probability proposition. Perhaps "X is unlikely to occur in any one attempt".

  • I could, but the thing is, I'm trying not to change the text much. And using "requires many attempts". But oh well, if I couldn't figure it out I'll just use that. Thanks! Oct 5, 2016 at 16:39
  • Based on the question, this captures my sense of it. As trying to throw a penny into a small cup from a distance of several yards or meters. It will take many attempts. Oct 6, 2016 at 1:44
  • Or trying to win the lottery... or trying the guess the number between 1 and 1 billion that I have in my head. Oct 6, 2016 at 5:08

Do you think that error always means mistake and that is why you think you can't use trial and error?

Error certainly can mean avoidable mistake but if you look at definition 1.2 of this dictionary entry you will see that error can also mean unavoidable inaccuracy, such as the inaccuracy introduced into money calculations when applying percentages.

This definition of trial and error shows that, here, error is used more in the sense of unavoidable inaccuracy than in the sense of making mistakes. All the experimental attempts at a solution are usually valid attempts given the experimenter's level of knowledge, and the seriousness of the failures is reduced over the repetitions of the trial because the experimenter is learning from experience.

In fact electronic calculators often use a form of rapid trial and error to arrive at mathematical results like sines, cosines and logarithms by calculating closer and closer estimates for the value until a sufficiently accurate one is achieved.

Properly understood trial and error is probably your best coice.


Perhaps, it is elusive (and hence requires multiple attempts).

X is elusive.



1 Difficult to find, catch, or achieve.

‘success will become ever more elusive’

‘Taylor is still searching for that elusive first tour win but is not setting herself any future goals and targets in the sport.’

‘Naturally, that persistent little squirrel is still driving himself nuts in pursuit of an elusive acorn.’


Well you can use hard-to-gain to state that.

Like this: "X is extremely hard-to-gain."

or with requires you may use an iron shoe to accomplish, means very hard work to do.

Which will lead to: "X requires an iron shoe to accomplish".

Hope it helps.

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